Kitchn Love Letters

The Contest-Winning Caesar Dressing My Husband Is Known For

published Jan 22, 2022
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

Given my line of work, I am, by default, the cook in our family. Most of the time I’m OK with this arrangement, because my husband Joe is a great dishwasher. However, I relish the moments he takes the reins in the kitchen and leaves me to sip my wine on the couch.

Among his roster of specialities is a simple Caesar dressing from the pages of Cal Peternell’s wonderful cookbook, Twelve Recipes. I’ve yet to meet another version that compares! In fact, when we were living with my in-laws during the height of COVID-19, Joe and his brother went head-to-head in a Caesar salad dressing competition, and Joe’s came out on top. It has since become the go-to recipe among all of my in-laws. It hits all the garlicky, pleasantly pungent notes you’d expect, and couldn’t be easier to make.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

A Classic Caesar Dressing That Never Fails

What I love about this recipe is that it celebrates the key ingredients of Caesar dressing and eschews flourishes. It fully embraces egg yolks and anchovy fillets, skips conveniences like anchovy paste, and doesn’t involve what I deem to have no place in Caesar dressing: mayonnaise.

You simply mash a garlic clove with lots of anchovy fillets in a mortar with a pestle; stir in Dijon, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and freshly ground black pepper; then stir in an egg yolk and olive oil until the dressing is creamy and emulsified. At that point, as Peternell describes in his cookbook, it’s anchovy vinaigrette. To make it a true Caesar dressing, grated Parmesan cheese should be stirred in, which my husband is very generous with. To serve, Joe drizzles the dressing over torn romaine leaves, tosses the greens to coat, then tops the salad with more grated Parmesan, black pepper, and sometimes (but not always because, honestly, we’re lazy) homemade croutons.

If You Make This Caesar Dressing, a Few Tips

  • Use a little less olive oil. We like our vinaigrettes and dressings to lean extra tangy, so Joe typically cuts the olive oil by a tablespoon or two and occasionally adds a splash more lemon juice or red wine vinegar after tasting the dressing.
  • Reach for high-quality anchovies. Personally, I feel a Caesar salad is only as good as the anchovies you use. There are plenty of subpar options at grocery stores and if you can skip them, you’ll be rewarded. We keep the Agostino Recca brand stocked in our pantry.
  • Don’t just limit this Caesar dressing to salad. Toss this dressing with shredded chicken, fry an egg or two in a generous drizzle, or use it to marinate steak or salmon.

Get the recipe: Anchovy Vinaigrette

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. Kitchn Love Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.